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In Bethlehem, Christmas Eve was a silent night, as there were no Christmas celebrations. The Christian churches in Syria joined in solidarity. “In Palestine, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, people are suffering,” the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Mor Dionysius Antoine Shahda, told AFP. “In Syria we cancelled all official celebrations and receptions in our churches in solidarity with the victims of the bombing on Gaza” by Israeli forces, Shahda said.

The Syriac Catholic Church was not alone, with the leaders of three of Syria’s major churches—the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic patriarchs—announcing they were canceling Christmas festivities and limiting celebrations to religious ceremonies. “Given the current circumstances, especially in Gaza, the patriarchs apologize for not receiving Christmas and New Year greetings,” the trio said in a joint statement, adding they were limiting ceremonies to “prayers.”